December 19, 2017 / 3:07 AM / a month ago

Peru opposition wants vice president to govern if president ousted - lawmaker

LIMA (Reuters) - A leading Peruvian opposition lawmaker on Monday called for the country’s Vice President Martin Vizcarra to govern the country if Congress ousts President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski over graft allegations he denies.

Enough political parties have committed to backing a motion to oust Kuczynski in a scheduled vote in the opposition-run Congress on Thursday.

Kuczynski has repeatedly said there was nothing improper about recently disclosed business ties that he once denied having with Odebrecht, a Brazilian builder at the center of Latin America’s biggest corruption scandal.

If Kuczynski does depart, Vizcarra would be authorized to carry out the rest of Kuczynski’s scheduled 2016-2021 term.

Congresswoman Luz Salgado denied her party, Popular Force, which has a majority in Peru’s single-chamber Congress, would seek to topple Vizcarra as charged by opponents.

“If he (Vizcarra) does his job well and assumes the role that history if offering to him, he’ll have our corresponding support,” said Salgado, a key leader in the party. “We’re thinking about what’s best for the country. We’re not trying to find fault in anyone.”

Kuczynski and Vizcarra’s offices declined requests for comment.

No major policy changes are expected if Kuczynski were replaced by Vizcarra, a former governor of a copper-rich Andean region and Peru’s current ambassador to Canada.

But the political crisis has spooked investors in one of Latin America’s most stable economies. “It’s going to have an important impact on the economy. Investments are going to be delayed,” said Carlos Galvez, the chief financial officer of Peruvian miner Buenaventura.

A 79-year-old former Wall Street banker, Kuczynski was part of a rightward shift in South American politics when he was elected last year. His fight for survival underscores the risks facing political leaders with long business resumes as graft scandals roil the region.

Kuczynski has described Popular Force’s efforts to unseat him as an authoritarian attack on institutions, and criticized the party for not giving him more time to defend himself.

“We look like a banana republic. Without a proper procedure, Congress is just usurping the presidency,” Housing Minister Carlos Bruce told journalists on Monday.

Popular Force said it only hopes to uproot corruption and was acting within the bounds of the constitution.

The party emerged from the right-wing movement started by the country’s former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori, who is now in prison for graft and human rights crimes. It is now led by Kuczynski’s defeated electoral rival Keiko Fujimori.

New elections, which would be the worst-case scenario for investors, would only be called if both Vizcarra and Second Vice President Mercedes Araoz leave office before 2021, a scenario Araoz ruled out in an interview with Reuters on Sunday.

Reporting By Mitra Taj and Marco Aquino, Additional Reporting By Teresa Cespedes; editing by Clive McKeef

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